A government without vision is no government at all. It is merely a political caretaker punting the issues of today down the field for our children to deal with.
Our little province has seen its share of visionless punters and we are paying a steep price for this political malfeasance. Our traditional industries are deteriorating. Our communities under growing pressure to provide services to an aging and dwindling population. Our tax regime is among the highest in the country, as are our energy costs.
Our deficit is untamed and our provincial debt continues to soar with no prospect of reining it in, let alone paying it down.
PEI is broke.
Yet our Finance Minister is still guided by the decades old tradition of political partisanship that has gotten PEI into this financial sinkhole. Wes Sheridan pronounced that the vast majority of those who took part in his closed-door budget consultations requested the province not cut spending and services further but continue to grow our staggering debt of $2.4 billion.
Rather than show leadership Wes Sheridan is leading the stick your head in the sand parade. His lack of vision is reckless and irresponsible in that it avoids the politically difficult but necessary process of identifying and investing in true provincial priorities.
Our governance system is largely unchanged from the early 1970s. Departments are allocated funding based on the previous year. As a province we never ask whether the department or programs it offers are true priorities. We must ask those questions if we believe in rural communities, rural health care, rural education, environmental protection and efficient economic development. Our system is manipulated by political leeches that use personal connections to enrich themselves while draining limited financial resources from true priorities.
Last week Nova Scotia Liberal MP Scott Brison delivered a blunt, non-partisan assessment of the state of the Nova Scotia economy.
It is aging. Its tax regime is a detriment to job creation. The cost of energy is prohibitively high, another impediment to growth. The provincial debt is a ticking time bomb. When the provincial debt is combined with the province’s share of the federal debt, there is little to distinguish Nova Scotia from Greece, Ireland or Italy before the collapse of their economies.
PEI is in no better shape. Our $2.4 billion gross provincial debt doubles when our share of the federal debt is factored. Our government talks about an aging population but replaces aging 48 or 72 bed manors with new 48 or 72 bed manors, proof positive Ghiz Liberals are more interested in photo ops than tackling the real issues in a substantive way.
Budget consultations is a far broader process than holding closed door meetings and kowtowing to demands that in many cases are driven by self-interest.
We need a real, public, discussion about what our priorities are. It is an exercise that need not be a budgetary slash and burn. Will it be painful? Yes. Do we have any alternative? No.
PEI needs a complete rethink of how we govern and what we spend money on. Our electoral system is outdated. MLAs are lapdogs for the party line. Community councils are monuments to
fiefdom building created 100 years ago at a time when transportation was a detriment to growth.
As Brison points out, interest rate hikes of just several points could spell the tipping point.
PEI has a small opportunity to effect the broad change necessary.
If we continue to ignore, like Wes Sheridan, the realities facing our province we have already lost the ability to control our destiny.
We need honesty from our political leaders.
We need courage and communication from our political leaders.
We need a detailed plan that lays out the necessity to see beyond the short-term.
We need a new governance structure.
We need hope that there are political leaders who can see beyond the self-serving end of their noses.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Well said Paul, I agree 100%.
God Bless and keep reading